Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shot Who?

At the risk of sounding like I just fell off the turnip truck, we didn't have no doctors the likes of these here where I grew up!

Okay, so really I was born with pretty strong grammar skills (despite my passion for ain't and split infinitives, I DID teach language arts), but I would like to convey my natural twang here, let you know I'm from the rural South, and explain how deeply foreign some treatments we've explored for our son can feel to me at first blush. Maybe to you more worldly folks this is all a matter of course, and you'll think I am quite some country mouse, to which I say, Yes I Am, thank you very much.

Sometimes, I can almost FEEL my Peeps 3,000 miles away rolling their eyes as I call to order some herbs from a specialist whose title I honestly have a mental block on learning on the grounds it is too multisyllabic and, well, goofy sounding.

I am NOT without an open mind. I am also not some easy mark who buys every gadget sold on infomercials. I am just a mom in Los Angeles trying to avail my son of every possible resource to help him with his health. And his health ain't great.

Anyway, yesterday we tried the osteopath. Sure, I could analyze the word and figure out the meaning of osteopath, but I promise you can't find one within a hundred miles of where I grew up, and I had no idea what to expect. We found this doctor because I tell anyone who will listen that I will take any and all referrals they might consider offering that might have a decent chance of helping the rooster overcome his snot affliction. Sorry to get graphic, but the child needed his nostrils plunged immediately after birth, and possibly every ninety minutes since then, for almost five goopy years. When our outstanding, grounded, and articulate OT told us how very much she respects her osteopath, and knowing that my OT's daughter has made significant developmental gains under this doctor's care, I thought I needed to get an appointment.

Yesterday, I picked my boy up from school after nap time, during which he had not napped, and found him to be in, as my mom likes to say, rare form. The teacher let me know while handing him off to me that he scratched the face of a classmate, unfortunately the daughter of Beverly Hills dermatologists, and they had to do an accident report since he drew blood. He cried and kicked most of the drive across town, then spent forty minutes trying to dismember the waiting room. I liked the waiting room - it seemed medical and professional enough, and despite having to wait forever, we were the only patients there. When does THAT happen?

When we left the waiting room at last, we left my realm of experience with medicine. The doctor took us to a room much like the one my tax accountant has, which is to say, a very Los Angeles feeling space, not far from the ocean, with many fragile things my son should not touch. And some toys that didn't really interest him, since instead he saw so many fragile things he should not touch and desperately needed to break them.

The doctor proceeded to talk to me for quite a while, stopping to warn the rooster that, "Hey, that's expensive, don't break it," and asking me all seven thousand questions I'd just answered on his book length form in the waiting room. I enumerated our many concerns: hypotonia, fine and gross motor issues, allergies, poor digestion, poor focus, aggression, pragmatic language deficits, scripting, mitigated echolalia, mood swings, drool, memory, motor planning, impulse control.... and I told him our whole Rooster story. At last, the doctor removed his glasses, looked up through his inordinately bushy eyebrows, and asked if I clearly understood my child exhibited all the hallmarks of BIRTH TRAUMA. Well, sure, I could tell we were going that way, as he'd probed into how long, how well, how adequately I'd nursed my child, what drugs I'd allowed the hospital to foist on us during delivery, and any number of other guilt inducing inquiries. I nodded. Okay, birth trauma. I said, "And he has an autism diagnosis." He nodded. It was just a nod, but I had a nagging feeling he thought somehow I did an awful job giving birth, so now of course my son has autism. Finally it was time to actually examine the patient if we could wrangle him onto the ....

... table? More like a little bed. The rooster climbed up and let the doctor... um... feel him; where I am from, people thump melons and such in much the same kind of knowing manner. The doctor spent a lot of time wrapping his hand around the rooster's calf, in particular, cocking an eyebrow, muttering, and running his fingers up the back of rooster's neck. The rooster, rather than getting upset, cracked up completely. He wasn't mocking alternative medicine; he just felt ticklish.

The diagnosis? The rooster has, um, crooked legs. And, uh, his chin is kind of small, which could someday wreck his posture, which is, er, systemically bad. And his vertebrae are sort of compressed. His neck is too tight, which we've always known related to his torticollis and strabismus. He has poor binocular vision. And he is very, very, ticklish. All but that last part I think comprise his BIRTH TRAUMA. (read: dagger to my guilty heart. Hey, what about MY birth trauma?!)

But, I had to interject and ask, does this, uh, affect, like, his general health? Oh, the doctor said, as directly as if the Donald was firing me, YES, without a doubt, it most certainly does.

The remedy? The doctor proceeded to take a, um, thing that vibrated but that I am loathe to call a vibrator, and ran it up and down the boy's body. After quite a long time, I suddenly looked at the clock, and upon realizing we'd now been there over two hours, announced that we'd have to leave soon to pick my daughter up from school. With great sincere dismay, the doctor proclaimed: "Well, I have to FINISH, or else he won't be EVEN." He, um, vibrated the rooster a bit more, gave me a referral to an 82-year-old nutritionist he said could prescribe things to us by phone, and then told us to come back. With several more intense, er, sessions, he expected mild to moderate improvement. I had to know. Improvement in what? In his BEHAVIOR, he said. That'll be $175. We got the discount. And, no, silly, this is not an insurance kind of place. See you soon! Or not, I thought; we'll have to think more about this whole business and do more fact-checking, call our friends in medicine... you know, the FAMILIAR kind of medicine, the kind where they give you some MEDICINE instead of a vibrator...

Cut to today, when I go to pick the rooster up from school. He is in after care, and when I walk in, and I am not thinking at all about the osteopath. I am realizing that the daughter of the dermatologists wants to talk to me. She makes a bee-line for me, and I hold my breath, praying her mother won't arrive at this very same moment to hear whatever woeful tale she has to recount today about my guy. She looks up at me and says, very adult-like for a four-year-old wearing Valentine pants, "Rooster had a better day today! He was nicer." Yes, the rooster corroborates, it's true. I take his hand and Peaches' hand, and the three of us walk to our car, peacefully. A FIRST!They behave so well I give them lollipops for the ride home. We listen to books on tape, and the don't fight, even though they are sitting next to each other for a change, since J took the car with the third row today. We get home, the kids eat their dinner, watch Sesame Street, and let me play a few rounds of Scramble on the laptop. Huh? J arrives. The rooster lights up with engagement. He initiates all kinds of conversation with his daddy. "Daddy, do you remember when..." and "Daddy, do you know dinosaurs are STINKED? They are not alive. Not anymore. They are STINKED." I don't know when I last saw J laugh so much or have a better time talking with the rooster. Suddenly, the osteopath comes to mind. And I realize I need to write a blog post. This one. I need to reconcile my Southern roots and my Angeleno lifestyle, and I needed to explore my beliefs and my hopes, my uncertainty and my questions.

All this rambling (forgive me, I have a horrible virus, my throat is on fire, and I'm on MEDS) is to tell you this. I ain't got no clue what to make of this osteopath business. Maybe by coincidence the rooster just happened to have a better day today. Maybe not. Maybe if I lived on Mars then suddenly landed in my internist's office, I'd go, "This crazy chick thinks if I urinate in a cup she can tell if I'm sick! She pumped my arm with air in a sleeve and called it medicine! BAH, Poppycock!" There are many ways to look at it, and I surely will research more. But here is what I know: the rooster and I, and as many increments of $175 as it takes, will drive across town again to lie down in the bed and vibrate, and maybe when we do it enough, the rooster will no longer need to break all the doctor's expensive equipment anymore, and we will graduate from alternative medicine with our melons intact. Thump.


PBear said...

Well, I've had a similar experience... not much of a believer in alternative medicine either, good midwesterner that I am, but finally gave in and went to a chiropractor/osteopath that everyone at work raved about, for SINUS problems, of all things. Never been to a chiropractor before, don't want anyone 'popping' any part of my body, I have enough joint trouble, thank you very much. (Yes, I probably had 'birth trauma' too - uneven legs, strabismus, very very tight muscles...)

Well, imagine a similar type of office, with a table that tilts completely vertical, you stand against it, and then it lays you down flat. A man with a big round disc on his belt is holding his hand about 1/16" inch above various parts of your body while rubbing his fingers around the disc, which makes a kind of medium pitched whirr... and this goes on for about 20 minutes, while you are just repeating to yourself 'I will not laugh, I will not laugh, I will NOT laugh...' Afterwards, you are hooked up to a bunch of little electrodes, left to take a nap on another table with a heated blanket and the lights turned off, while you get some sort of electrical stimulation.... and being so desperate that you actually return for this for several months...

Can't say it did my sinuses any good, BUT - for the first time in my life, I could actually jog (which I had never been able to do before, since my legs are so offset.)

So, I wouldn't take any guilt from him about the Rooster's 'birth trauma' but if what he does helps, hey, go for it!

Niksmom said...

Ok, I gotta tell you, from what you wrote and what PBear wrote...this doesn't sound like ANY Osteopath I've ever encountered! Maybe it's an L.A. thing? Nik's ped is a D.O. and she's just as normal as any other doc we've met. Her only difference (besides the fact she & Nik have a mutual admiration society going!) is that she's less eager to prescribe drugs if it's possible. No "woo" just letting the body's natural defenses try to work first.

Interesting. And this from a mom (me) who uses homeopathy for any number of things, believes in chiropractic, etc.

Anonymous said...

Looks like we were on the same wavelength today. Yes, sometimes it is nothing more than a gut feeling, anecdotal evidence that the therapy works. The world might call it snake oil, but that doesn't mean they're right.

pixiemama said...

A good day is a good day. Makes no difference how much it costs you to get there. I REALLY enjoyed reading how you got there, though!

(PS - I've heard the whole "birth trauma thing from "real" docs, too. Neurologists, even! I'm thinking, "Is that a technical term?")

mama edge said...

Loved this post! I look forward to reading about your next visit to the osteopath and whether it continues to be associated with positive behavior.

I have resisted any use of alternative medicine/therapies out of (excessively stubborn?) skepticism, and I wonder if I've missed opportunities to help my kids. If only there were a money-back guarantee if it turns out that the therapy is full of crap.